Tuesday, 4 January 2011

LSD Magazine Interviews William Parry on Palestine Wall Art (Issue 6)

We are privileged to welcome journalist, author and photographer William Parry to LSD Magazine. William has just published Against the Wall, a book crammed full of original photography and captivating, deeply emotive insight that documents both the art of the separation wall that pillages the land, the resources, the freedom and the dignity of Palestine as well as the struggle that it so starkly symbolises. Oscillating between the art itself, it’s evolution, the balance between local paint and visiting solidarity and the human cost and searing scars that the wider conflict has torn into the Palestinian psyche, the book examines the throbbing concrete heart of this terrifying symbol of injustice and grinds it’s visual story into grim focus...

What drove your commitment to documenting the art of the separation wall? 

First and foremost, the injustice of the wall and the millions ways that the graffiti communicates this and the steadfastness of the Palestinians in their struggle. I was doing an article about the legacy of Banksy and co.’s Santa’s Ghetto project in Bethlehem. I’d been many times and as I was leaving Bethlehem on this occasion I was amazed to see how much new artwork had gone up on the wall since my last visit. I texted my partner, joking that someone should document it for subsequent generations because all walls fall, and it’d be a shame to lose all this stunning work on this hated wall. I quickly thought: hey, it’s not a bad idea and I proposed it to Pluto Press, who quickly backed it. The advocacy movement for Palestine urgently needs fresh and creative ways of communicating with Western audiences so that it can get new support and raise awareness, like with the anti-apartheid movement – only then will real pressure on Israel build to respect international law. The Santa’s Ghetto project, pulled off with astonishing skill, creativity, originality and humour by Banksy et al and Pictures on Walls (POW), was such an act, making headlines around the world and showed Christmas shoppers in the West that Bethlehem/Palestine is being destroyed by Israel’s occupation and the wall. The book is a continuation of their fortnight there and their thinking – with the human stories of Palestinian hardship and resistance between the artwork.

Can you give us some insight into how you went about researching the book? 

There are thousands of wonderful, committed people who form a web of solidarity for justice, involved with various groups and from all walks of life. It’s a growing, international community of people who are doing their little bit to raise awareness about Israel’s decades of injustice in Palestine. I depended hugely on their contacts, their energy, their assistance, their lifts to areas on the ground in some cases, to meet people with tragic and inspiring stories to tell. In the UK I had original assistance from Tristan Manco at POW, who put me in touch with many of the artists. Then it was down to basic journalism – gathering the stories, the statistics from the many organisations who produce regular reports on such things (the UN and humanitarian/human rights groups), and taking a few thousand photos! And of course there’s my wife, who accompanied me through most of the journey and whose language skills and ‘nativeness’ granted us access into the lives of many people I could never have experienced otherwise.

How much did the process change you as a person? 

My admiration, respect and understanding of the Palestinian people grew exponentially. I was profoundly moved by their generosity, patience, humour and their steadfastness/ resolve. They taught me a lot about all of these qualities. It also turned me on to street art and taught me a lot about this medium that was previously foreign to me, I’m ashamed to admit.

What is your personal take on whether art diminishes or accentuates the monstrous impact of the wall

I’d like to think the graffiti highlights it and exposes, stroke by stroke, the nature of Israel’s on-going colonial project, now 62 years old. It’s a small way for ordinary people to express their outrage, their disgust, their solidarity – but it’s the growing number of small but creative ways that civil society is taking to voice its opposition and combat the oppression, given how pathetically our politicians have failed to uphold international law and morality. Instead of writing to your MP, go over, support the local economy, witness Israel’s occupation and leave your mark on the wall. That will lead to other actions and growing awareness, and that will help change the situation for the better.

How much of the art is directed towards a forgetful media and how much do you think is actually for the day to day lives of the communities themselves? 

Virtually none is there for the media – the Santa’s Ghetto work was partly to get the media’s attention. But most is for the people caught behind the wall, a small way of saying ‘you are not alone’. That knowledge – whether through the graffiti or by campaigning for their rights in other ways there and here – means a huge amount to them, they say. 

Is the spray can mightier than the sword? 

It’s a means of communicating about injustice. It’s one means of getting a message across. The more people who learn about Israel’s crimes, the more who challenge the West’s blind backing of Israel – the quicker Israel’s incredibly sophisticated military machine will be undermined. The spray can is part of the spectrum of other creative, non-violent ways being undertaken by civil society to raise awareness, challenge historical narratives and overcome injustice.


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Ananda nahu, The Correspondents, Solo One, Soulflux, The Orb + Youth, Jerm IX, 69 DB, Raymond Salvatore Harmon, Rennie Pilgrem, The Yes Men, Resto, Chaz, Neurodriver, Lokey, Elate, Dhear One, Page 51, Umek, Karma, Andrew Tiernan, K-Guy, Richard A Webster, William Parry, Andy C, Jesus Greus, Push Pony, James Lightning Wilks, Dominic Spreadlove, AK - 47, Mr Sofalumpkins, Mat Banbury, MikkiM, David Corden, Ian Milne, Punch Music, Hudson Zuma, Wayne Anthony, Sirius23

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